Ep 9: A Rational Approach to Ancient Aliens [Pt 2]: The Secret History Of Human Civilization
Welcome back to The UFO Rabbit Hole Podcast. I’m your host, Kelly Chase.
Today, we dive into part 2 of what was once a single episode and is now, apparently, a trilogy that aims to put forth a rational approach to the question of whether or not the UFO phenomenon may have interacted, and perhaps even intervened, with humans in the distant past — and if so what impact this interaction may have had on our species and the development of human civilization.
This idea, referred to as the ancient astronaut theory, and popularized by the show Ancient Aliens, is one that emerges again and again as you begin to study ufology. The evidence that the UFO phenomenon has played a clear, albeit baffling, role in human history is considerable — something that we’ll get into more in future episodes — and is woven throughout our stories and art around the world spanning back as far into our past as these things appear.
There’s something undeniably different about humanity. As far as we’re aware, despite billions of years of evolution on this planet, humans are the first species to appear with the capacity for what we define as “intelligence”. We’re seemingly the first species to create art, to develop complex language, to develop agriculture, and to build cities.
We’re the first species to not just wonder about who we are in the grand scheme of the cosmos, but to develop complex frameworks and methodologies to begin to pursue the truth behind these mysteries ourselves. I mean, we went to the fucking moon.
And yet, our nearest cousins the chimpanzees, highly intelligent though they may be, are only fractionally closer to writing the Declaration of Independence than your average dog. The differences between us are undeniable and profound.
And the reality is that we have no idea why we are so different. The unique quality of our humanity is self-evident, but where did it come from? Are we just very smart apes who through trial-and-error, and no small amount of luck, over millions of years happened upon the path to math, philosophy, art, agriculture, and government?
Or is there perhaps more to it than that? Could we have been given a boost — some form of guidance or revelation from a more advanced intelligence? The mysteries of our past certainly seem to raise this intriguing possibility.
So let’s take some time to dive into the evidence surrounding the emergence of one of the most unique and astonishing of humanity’s achievements — the development of high civilization — to see what clues there might be about this profound chapter of our history, and what role, if any, the UFO phenomenon may have played in its emergence.
What Is Civilization?
Before we go any further, we need to stop for a minute to get some clarity around what civilization actually is. After all, if we’re going to look for clues about human civilization in the distant past, we need to know what we’re looking for, right?
And the concept of civilization is one that may seem obvious, but upon closer inspection is anything but. We use that word in a lot of different ways in our everyday lives. For some civilization is running water. For others, a place needs to have at least one Michelin Star restaurant to qualify. And when we look at more technical definitions of civilization in an attempt to understand and trace its emergence, things get even more complicated.
There are a lot of layers and a lot of history around the very idea of civilization that we need to unpack in order for us to take a more informed and nuanced look at the evidence and begin to understand what secrets may lie in our distant past.
What Is The Difference Between Civilization and Culture?
The word “civilization” brings to mind so many of the things that make humans unique among other animals on this planet — things like art, language, knowledge, technology, and government. But how would we define it exactly?
An important distinction to make here is the difference between civilization and culture. Culture is the sum total of ways of living built up by human beings and transmitted from one generation to another. Culture is a complex entity that’s made up of a confluence of disparate parts and can include things such as art, customs, morals, beliefs, religion, food, and even laws.
Civilization, on the other hand, is an advanced state of human society, in which a high level of culture, science, industry, and government has been reached. A civilization is made up of and springs from culture, but is also associated with a number of social, political, and economic characteristics such as urban development, social stratification, unique art and architecture, a form of detailed writing, complex division of labor, codified laws and administration, and more.
So art? Culture.
Culinary School? Civilization.
A group of people can have and enforce laws as part of their culture, but in a civilization, those laws are codified and enforced by specialist groups assembled for that purpose like legislative bodies and police forces.
So this distinction gives us a decent place to start talking about how to truly define what a civilization is. Our culture emerges from our humanity — our sense of beauty, our sense of order, our sense of right and wrong. And culture can exist without civilization. We see this in humanity’s past where we have examples of cave art dating back at least 40,000 years.
But civilization, on the other hand, emerges from complexity — complex ideas, complex ways of meeting needs, complex social structures.
And yet still this definition feels a little soft. Where is that line between the simple and the complex? How do we definitively say when a group of people have crossed that threshold, and how would we recognize the signs of that transition in the distant past?
Writing As a Hallmark Of Civilization
Because of the complexities of defining what exactly a civilization is, many experts have settled on written language as the defining characteristic. And this makes sense in a lot of ways.
First of all, writing gives us something concrete and “discoverable” by which to define civilization. Things like a complex social structures and codified laws can be inferred about a group of people based on the evidence they leave behind, but without a written language to decipher, it is difficult — if not impossible — for us to know much about them.
Written language itself also implies a level of social complexity that we associate with civilization. Its very existence implies the need for complex information to be conveyed to a large group of people. It implies some kind of formal (or at least structured) education. It implies a permanence, or perhaps more accurately a persistence, of a group’s culture and a sense of identity.
For these reasons, written language is an intuitive benchmark, and if you have to draw a line in the sand somewhere to clearly define what civilization is, written language feels like a good place to do it.
Challenges With Using Written Language To Define Civilization
However, there are some issues with this approach, as well.
I’d argue that for written language to be used as a reliable benchmark for human civilization, then, at minimum, two things need to be true of the examples of written language that are left behind by that civilization — they must be durable and recognizable.
Let’s take a minute to talk about what I mean by that.
So first of all, for us to find this writing, it has to still exist somewhere, which means that it has to be durable. It has to survive long enough for us to find it.
However, more often than not, written language isn’t very durable — or rather, the materials that are used for written language aren’t very durable. Organic materials like paper and papyrus, for example, eventually decay. They’re also particularly vulnerable to damage from everything from fires to floods to simple humidity.
The Library of Alexandria comes to mind. Believed to have been built sometime around 250 B.C., The Library of Alexandria in Egypt was the perhaps the largest and most significant library of the ancient world. At its height it was said to have housed anywhere from 40,000 to 400,000 scrolls.
Despite a common misconception that the library was burned down entirely in one catastrophic incident, it was actually partially burned three different times over a few hundred years during various wars and conflicts before falling into decline due to lack of funding and eventually disappearing entirely sometime in the late third century. (And this is why you’ve always got to vote to fund your libraries, people. Do your part.)
And though the story is different from the story of the Library of Alexandria that is typically told, it doesn’t really matter — the impact is the same. For hundreds of years, an astonishing wealth of human knowledge was meticulously stored and protected in the Library of Alexandria, and yet nothing of it now remains. Eventually disasters, wars, and cultural atrophy devoured it all.
Interestingly, even in our current day we are confronted with the challenges of preserving and safeguarding records for future generations. This is because more and more knowledge and information is being created and stored exclusively in a digital format. And although technology makes it much easier to duplicate, back up, and share this information, the technology we use to access it, as well as the formats in which it is stored, are constantly changing.
There are those who think that we’re not doing enough to preserve our digital records, and that we are at serious risk of creating a black hole in our history. Think about it this way — how much information was stored on floppy disks and CDs and other relatively short-lived data storage mediums? And how far forward into the future would you need to go for that data to become virtually irretrievable? A couple hundred years perhaps? Maybe less? For anyone who is unlikely to invest any energy is this sort of thing — which I would argue is basically everyone — those things are effectively irretrievable now.
So what can we use to preserve written language in a way that can withstand that test of time?
The most obvious answer is with pottery or clay tablets — or if you really want to get serious you could carve it into stone. And luckily, although we’ve undoubtedly lost immense amounts of human history and knowledge that was stored on less durable materials — our ancestors did use these sorts of materials, as well.
The very earliest examples of writing that we have are on clay tablets. They date back to around 3500 B.C. in what was once Mesopotamia and is now modern-day Iraq. This is where it is believed that written language was first developed. We have examples of early pictographic writing starting about 3500 BC that slowly transitioned into what we recognize today as cuneiform.
Which brings us to our next point, which is that for written language to be an effective benchmark for the emergence of human civilization, we need to be able to recognize it as writing.
But a written language is just a set of symbols that convey meaning. And there are many different kinds of languages. In English, each character represents a sound. In some languages, each character represents a syllable. And in others, each character is a word or an idea. Some of these characters can be relatively simple like in the Latin alphabet, or they can be complex pictographs where minor variations in the character can convey subtle layers of meaning.
Chinese consists not only of characters representing meanings but also of secondary characters based on sound similarity for representing meanings that were difficult to picture. It therefore relies upon both word-based and sound-based principles.
But, whatever the language, if we don’t understand the meaning that these characters are meant to convey, how would we even know for sure that what we are looking at is truly a written language? What would separate random characters and pictographs from any other markings one might find on walls or tablets in ancient archeological sites?
Because preserving written language over thousands of years presents so many challenges, and because we may not even recognize it as written language if we do find it, I think it’s important to recognize the very real possibility that we could easily miss written language in the archeological record.
Which, I would argue, means that written language can’t be a viable benchmark for identifying human civilization. And so what we’re left with is a question for which we still don’t have a great answer — which is what is civilization?
The Legacy of V. Gordon Childe
I want to take a minute to talk about the ideas of one man that have perhaps shaped the current accepted narrative of the emergence of human civilization more than any other — and that man is V. Gordon Childe.
Childe was a famed Australian archaeologist in the early 20th century who specialized in the study of European prehistory. He spent most of his life in the United Kingdom, working first as an academic for the University of Edinburgh and then the Institute of Archaeology in London.
Childe was known as a great synthesizer of archeology and wrote twenty-six books during his career. He initially made his mark as an early proponent of culture-historical archaeology, which is an archaeological theory that emphasizes defining historical societies into distinct ethnic and cultural groupings according to the art and material that their culture produced.
However, later in his career, he became a staunch proponent of Marxist archaeology, which is a theory that interprets archaeological information within the framework of Marxism. Now, whatever your opinion on Marxism, I think we can all at least agree on the idea that interpreting the lives and cultures of ancient people entirely through the lens of a modern socioeconomic theory is, at best, a dodgy approach.
Personal Bias In Assessing Ancient Civilization
But this is also something that we, as humans, do a lot. We tend to apply the blueprint of our current understanding to unfamiliar cultures and concepts, assuming that they are more like us than they actually are.
I spent a few years traveling and living abroad, and until I had that experience, I don’t think I truly understood how much that’s true. Every culture is deeply coded with nuanced layers of meaning threaded throughout each and every interaction. We don’t notice it when we’re embedded within our own culture, because that culture is the context in which we live our lives. It’s as natural to us as breathing.
But when we find ourselves in a foreign culture, suddenly all of that comes sharply into focus. We can be easily confounded by the simplest things. Do you wait to be seated or seat yourself? Do you tip? Do you shake hands when you meet? Do you hug? Do you bow? Or maybe you go for the European cheek kiss — but one cheek or two? Surprise! You’re in Amsterdam and the answer is three.
I actually lived in Amsterdam for a couple of years, and I found myself in these situations all the time. And it says a lot that this was true even in a place like Amsterdam — a Western, democratic country with a shared Eurocentric historical perspective and whose citizens are basically all conversational or better with English. But despite those many similarities, the Dutch perspective is so entirely different from the American one that I was constantly caught off guard by something that seemingly should have been obvious to me, but wasn’t.
Here’s a quick example of what I mean:
A popular tourist attraction in Amsterdam during the time that I lived there was a giant sign made out of enormous block letters that said “IAmsterdam” with the “I” and the “am” in red and the rest in white, so it effectively said “I am Amsterdam”. These signs were all around the city from the airport to the world famous Museumplein, and people would climb up on the letters and take pictures for the ‘gram.
However, in 2018 it was announced that the popular installations would be removed. The decision was made by majority vote by the Amsterdam City Council in response to a motion filed that said that the sign was “too individualistic” and didn’t promote “solidarity and diversity”.
Now, to most Americans, this is a baffling argument. We are a nation founded on the almost worshipful notion of rugged individualism. We see individualism as the ultimate virtue, not a societal vice that needs to be overcome. And while we also believe in the ideals of solidarity and diversity, we see it as solidarity among self-defined individuals. We see individualism as the cornerstone of diversity, not the enemy of it.
But to the Dutch, individualism is at the root of what they see as an increasingly sick and unbalanced western culture. It is antithetical to their collectivist beliefs that place the needs of the whole above the needs of the individual. They see aggressive individualism as the root cause of much of the injustice and inequality in the world.
And too be honest, even as I’m saying this, I’m not 100% confident that I’m properly conveying their point of view on all of this because I don’t know that I totally understand it — the idea is just so fundamentally foreign.
The question of who’s right and who’s wrong doesn’t matter, and is probably asinine. The point is that even cultures that exist at the same time and have significant amounts of overlap in their shared experience can be very different from one another and can operate with entirely different sets of beliefs and motivations that would likely not be immediately obvious to outsiders.
Which is why I’d argue that it is almost impossible for us to easily understand how different a culture that existed 2000 years ago is from our own. And when you go further back into time — to 5000 years ago, 10,000 years ago, and beyond — those difference inevitably only become more profound. And so, to conduct effective archeological inquiry we need to always be cognizant of this fact and do our best not to place the blueprint of our experience on top of things that we don’t understand.
So — getting back to V. Gordon Childe, the takeaway is that his ideas changed a lot throughout his career. And while he was well-respected and made important contributions to archeology, many of his ideas have come into question or have been outright disproven since.
However, despite this, those same ideas still form the basis for much of the mainstream narrative around the emergence of human civilization to this day. As we talk through some of these ideas, they’ll likely be familiar to you.
Savagery, Barbarism & Civilization
So, first of all, Childe divided preindustrial societies into three main categories: savagery, barbarism, and civilization. And these aren’t just categories, but represent a hierarchical progression from least to most advanced.
According to Childe, “savages” came first — or to use a more accurate definition, these were hunter-gatherers. These people lived off of wild foods that they obtained by hunting, fishing, gathering foraging, and scavenging.
Next came “barbarians”. These groups of early humans might still hunt and gather to some extent, but they also began to supplement their food supply by cultivating plants and/or herding and breeding animals.
Cultivation and herding necessitated that small groups of people band together to protect small patches of land being used for that purpose. People began to weed, water, irrigate, and even engaged in selective breeding in order to get more yield out of their land. The tasks around cultivating this land became more complex, but they also lead to more abundant outcomes — AKA more food. As a result, larger and larger communities arose around this land.
And then finally, once these communities reached a certain size and level of complexity, Childe defined this as “civilization”.
Problems With Childe’s Model
Pretty straightforward, right? And it’s probably not too different from what you learned in school. However, there are some serious issues with Childe’s models that are worth discussing.
It’s hard to define.
First of all, Childe himself admitted that it was difficult to clearly define where the line between “barbarism” and “civilization” actually lies. He generally equated civilization with urbanism and “city life”, but recognized that that was also a difficult thing to define, so he tended to agree with the view that written language was the best benchmark for identifying true civilization. And we’ve already discussed how that approach, while convenient, is inherently problematic.
The language is coded with cultural bias.
The second issue is that the language that he chose to describe these different stages of pre-industrial human societies is coded with a cultural bias that can lead to incorrect conclusions.
For example, a savage is defined as “a brutal or vicious person” or “a member of a people regarded as primitive and uncivilized”. On the other hand, a hunter-gatherer is “a member of a nomadic people who live chiefly by hunting and fishing, and harvesting wild food.” Do you hear the difference?
And I want to be very clear that what we’re talking about here isn’t political correctness. This is about accuracy in word choice and guarding against unconscious bias in our understanding of ancient people. And we can easily see in this example how the use of the word “savages” to describe people who are hunter-gatherers layers unnecessary and unintended meaning onto the concept that can obscure our understanding.
We assume that because a group of people were hunter-gatherers that they were primitive, brutal, and uncivilized. We assume that high culture and advanced knowledge can only exist within a “civilized” society, which is a concept that we’ve arbitrarily tied to “city-life” and “written language” even though we have trouble clearly defining and identifying either of those things — and even though we can’t clearly articulate a reason why those things should be the ultimate defining characteristics of civilization and advanced human achievement.
And although there is abundant evidence — which we’ll get to in just a minute — to show that these ideas are flawed and don’t accurately represent the emergence of human civilization as it actually occurred, they still persist both within the cultural zeitgeist and within archeology itself.
The Story Of Human Civilization (According To Mainstream Academia)
Alright, so now that we’ve laid the foundation, let’s talk about the story of human civilization according to mainstream academia.
We think that modern humans may have first appeared somewhere around 300,000 to 350,000 years ago. I say “may have” because the truth is that we are far from certain about where and when homo sapiens first came on the scene.
Up until very recently, the earliest examples of homo sapien bones that we had discovered were from about 195,000 years ago in modern-day Ethiopia. It was thought that this was the metaphorical Garden of Eden, where humans had first evolved before spreading out into the rest of the world.
However, in 2017 a new discovery was announced. At a site near Morocco’s coast, near the city of Marrakesh, bones belonging to modern homo sapiens were found dating back 300,000 to 350,000 years. Not only did this discovery nearly double the history of the human race, but it calls the idea that humans first evolved in Eastern Africa seriously into question.
Regardless of when humans first appeared, it is generally agreed that around 70,000 years ago our species underwent a cognitive revolution. We began to live in larger communities, we engaged in trading with other groups, we developed speech, and even creative art. We’re not sure why this happened, but we’ve been able to identify these changes in the archeological record.
And then, about 12,000 year ago, humanity encountered two important turning points. The first was the end of the Younger Dryas, which was basically a mini Ice Age that lasted for about 1,200 years.
At the onset of the Younger Dryas there was a massive, worldwide extinction of large mammals weighing over 40 kg (or 88 pounds). It is estimated that 82% of these animals disappeared in North America, 74% in South America, 71% in Australasia, 59% in Europe, 52% in Asia, and 16% in Sub-Saharan Africa. This mass extinction event marked the demise of the mammoths, as well as the disappearance of horses in North America, and other species, including bison, deer, and moose suffered massive population losses.
Fossil evidence suggests the disappearances were very sudden, and so whatever caused that sudden die off inevitably made things mighty uncomfortable or our ancestors, as well — particularly in the Northern Hemisphere where the impact appears to have been highest.
However, despite whatever hardships they endured, humans emerged from the end of the Younger Dryas having managed to not suffer the same fate of most other large mammals. And it was at this point that humanity reached another turning point — the development of agriculture.
This transition to an agricultural society is also known as the Neolithic Revolution — a name that was coined by our old friend V. Gordon Childe. According to mainstream archeology, the Neolithic Revolution began around 12,000 years ago in the fertile crescent, also known as Mesopotamia, surrounding the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in what is now modern day Iraq.
This Neolithic Revolution marked the transition in human history from small, nomadic bands of hunter-gatherers to larger, agricultural settlements and early civilization. It was a radical and important period of change in which humans began cultivating plants, breeding animals for food and forming permanent settlements.
This wasn’t a transition that happened over night. And it would take 6 or 7 thousand more years for these agricultural societies to reach a level of complexity that would trigger the next big transition for humans — the urban revolution.
The cumulative growth of technology and the increasing availability of food surpluses allowed people to begin to live together in larger groups with a more complex social structure. Specialists emerged, allowing for significant advances in the arts and sciences. Surpluses were traded for other capital to fund public works. The first examples of written language emerged.
And, just like that, you have civilization. And almost immediately, these civilizations advanced to the level that the could begin to undertake megalithic building projects.
Which, if you ask me, sounds a little fishy.
The Pieces That Don’t Fit
But that’s more or less the story of human civilization as told by mainstream archeology today. However, over the past few decades there have been more and more discoveries that seem to, not just contradict this narrative, but suggest that we may need to go back to the drawing board and rethink the timeline of the emergence of civilization entirely. Yet, strikingly, these discoveries have done little to dislodge this narrative among most academics.
And no archeological site better exemplifies the level dissonance between the accepted narrative and what the evidence actually seems to suggest than Gobekli Tepe.
I want to start with Gobekli Tepe, because this is the archeological site that blows up our established narrative. It is proof that our timeline and assumptions about early human civilization are wrong. And it poses new questions about our origins that are not easily answered.
In southeastern Turkey, just north of the Syrian border, atop a low mountain sits Gobekli Tepe. Discovered in 1994 by German archeologist Klaus Schmidt, with excavation beginning in 1995, this remarkable site challenges everything we believed to be true about the emergence of human civilization.
The site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive t-shaped, stone pillars – which are the world’s oldest known megaliths and are estimated to weigh as much as 20 tons each. Many of these limestone pillars are richly decorated with abstract anthropomorphic details, clothing, and reliefs of wild animals.
There are many remarkable things about Gobekli Tepe — its complex geometry, its intricate stone carvings, and its towering megaliths. However, the most remarkable thing about this incredible site is its age. Using multiple dating methods, it is believed that the earliest parts of Gobekli Tepe were built around 9600 B.C. — or nearly 12,000 years ago. And yes, this is the date that is accepted by mainstream archeologists.
The reason that Gobekli Tepe is so well preserved, and why we’re so confident about it’s astonishing age is that, for reasons that remain a mystery, the entire complex was meticulously buried sometime around 8000 B.C., and remained that way until its discovery in the late 20th century.
It’s hard to know what, if anything, would have remained of this site if it hadn’t been preserved in this way, emphasizing how rare and important this glimpse into our past really is.
So what can we learn from Gobekli Tepe?
Well first of all, we now know that, at least in what is modern-day Turkey, humans were building megalithic structures at the end of the last ice age, which is a full 5000 years before the first megaliths were believed to have been built. To put that into perspective, the length of time between when the first megalithic structures were believed to have been built and when Gobekli Tepe was actually built is roughly the same period of time between our present day and the early dynastic period in Egypt, hundreds of years before the pyramids were believed to have been built.
This is stunning for a number of reasons. (The first, and most obvious is that)
It completely obliterates our previous timeline of the emergence of human civilization.
According to the existing narrative, 12,000 years ago humans were just beginning to experiment with agriculture. They still lived in small groups and were primarily hunter-gatherers. However, carving and raising giant megaliths like the ones found at Gobekli Tepe implies a level of sophistication that blows this story out of the water. To build something like that takes time, planning, and enormous resources — how could that be accomplished by small groups of hunter-gatherers who would, by necessity, need to exert most of their energy to get food?
To be fair, we actually don’t know if the builders of Gobekli Tepe were truly nomadic, hunter-gatherers. It’s been speculated that there could have been a permanent settlement near the site, though no evidence of that has ever been found. It could be that their homes were far less elaborate and made of largely organic materials — in which case it’s unlikely that any real evidence of their existence remains. Or it’s also been speculated that the settlement could have once stood where the nearby city of Urfa is now, which also would make it unlikely that we’d ever find traces of it.
However, it’s also possible that there wasn’t a permanent settlement at Gobekli Tepe at all. Perhaps Gobekli Tepe was a gathering place for various groups and tribes to come together for trading or religious celebrations. If that’s the case, it only further muddies the waters of the established narrative, because the level of knowledge and scale of cooperation necessary to take on megalithic building projects wasn’t supposed to have been developed until 5000 years later — and even then, it was only supposed to have been possible within the context of a “civilized”, urban environment.
Honestly, either possibility is mind-blowing. (Another major revelation of Gobekli Tepe is that…)
It may contain evidence of written language.
For example, carved into one of the largest megalithic pillars is what looks very much like letters. Specifically, it looks like a capital “C”, followed by a capital “H”, followed by a backwards capital “C”. Now, obviously, these aren’t literally C’s and H’s. However, comparisons have been made between these markings and Anatolian hieroglyphs that were used in the area, albeit 8000 years later, in the second millennia B.C. — and the similarities are striking.
Could it really be possible that written language developed thousands of years earlier than we previously thought? And could the written language used by the people who built Gobekli Tepe have eventually been the basis for Anatolian hieroglyphs?
Frustratingly, the answer is that we simply don’t know. As compelling as the evidence for written language is at Gobekli Tepe, there’s not enough to draw any definite conclusions — which only further emphasizes the point that identifying written language in our distant past is far more complicated than we might initially assume. The characters could be written language or it could be decoration — without context, how can you make that discernment?
And whether or not these markings are written language, we’re still left with a conundrum. If it is written language, then we have to push back the advent of the written word by at least 7,000 years. And if it isn’t written language, then we have to grapple with the fact that the builders of Gobekli Tepe somehow reached a level of social complexity to produce such a massive and mathematically precise megalithic construction without it — meaning that written language is no longer a viable benchmark for the emergence of civilization.
Either way, the accepted paradigm is shattered beyond repair.
And there is another tantalizing possibility posed by Gobekli Tepe, which is that —
The development of agriculture may not have been the driving force behind the Neolithic Revolution.
Because here’s the thing — the agricultural revolution is dated to about 10,000 B.C., but making the shift to fully agricultural societies took thousands of years. It didn’t happen overnight.
Written language, complex society, and advanced human knowledge may have developed long before cities — and there may have been some other driving force besides the agricultural revolution that caused people to abandon their hunter-gatherer lifestyle for larger and more permanent settlements, and the emergence of agriculture could have been a result of this transition, as opposed to the cause of it.
Whatever the case, Gobekli Tepe stands apart as the single most significant archeological find in human history, and its mysteries challenge virtually every belief that we have about the dawn of human civilization.
In light of the revelations of Gobekli Tepe, it seems reasonable that we would go back and reexamine other ancient sites within the context of this new information. However, despite the fact that excavations began at Gobekli Tepe almost 3 decades ago, within most archaeological circles, the idea that megalithic structures may be older than we thought — or at the very least, that they could have been built on the foundations of much older sites — remains entirely taboo.
One of the most well-known examples of this involves what is perhaps the dopest of all ancient megalithic structures, The Great Sphinx.
In October 1991, at an annual meeting of the Geological Society of America, Robert Schoch first presented evidence that the origins of the Great Sphinx must date back to at least 7000 to 5000 B.C., if not earlier — which is thousands of years before the popularly accepted date of 2500 B.C. And in more recent years, he has pushed back what he believes to be the true age of the Sphinx to around 12,000 years ago.
Schoch’s theory has been largely criticized and dismissed by mainstream archeologists and geologists, and his work has been slapped with the label of pseudoscience.
And as we talked about in the last episode, we may not be archeologists or geologists, but we do have a fairly simple framework for determining whether or not something is being fairly labeled as pseudoscience. All we need to do is to look at the arguments for why something is being called pseudoscience. If the argument is that the methodology used to collect the data wasn’t sound or that the data was interpreted incorrectly, then they might have a point, and we’d need to dig deeper to understand whether or not it was pseudoscience.
However, if the argument is simply that it’s pseudoscience because the conclusions don’t align with the current narrative, then we have a pretty clear case of academic bias. This doesn’t mean that these conclusions are necessarily correct, it only means that the label of pseudoscience, at least as it’s being argued, isn’t fair.
So let’s look at the evidence:
Mainstream Egyptologists contend that the Sphinx was built in approximately 2500 B.C. The reasoning for this basically boils down to the fact that it is surrounded by other structures that they have also dated to this time period.
The Great Sphinx is situated on the eastern edge of the Giza Plateau on the west bank of the Nile across from Cairo. Also located on this plateau is the Great Pyramid, attributed to the Fourth Dynasty pharaoh Khufu; the Second Pyramid, generally attributed to the pharaoh Khafre, who was possibly the son or brother of Khufu; and the third and smallest pyramid, which is attributed to the pharaoh Menkuara, who was possibly the son or grandson of Khufu.
So based on this traditional thinking, all of the pyramids are dated to around the same time period around 2500 B.C. during and immediately after the reign of Khufu. And, they argue, the Great Sphinx is “associated” with these structures, so it must be around that same age, as well.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t strike me as the strongest argument. I mean, sure — they’re close to each other. But if you went to Rome right now, you’d find an assemblage of architectural marvels whose origins span hundreds, if not thousands, of years. And we’d be wrong in assuming that just because they are close to each other that they are the same age.
I’d argue that in any city, like Egypt or Rome, that has been continually occupied for thousands of years, that proximity simply isn’t a viable method for dating structures.
It’s also worth noting that the dating of the pyramids themselves has, at times, been called into question. You probably already know that the three pyramids on the Giza plateau are positioned in such a way as to correlate to Orion’s Belt, within the constellation of Orion. However, what’s interesting is that, although their size and relative position are the same as the three stars of Orion’s Belt, they don’t align with the position of Orion’s Belt in the sky in 2500 B.C.
This might seem like a minor detail, except that we know that the builders of the pyramids — like virtually all megalithic builders — had an incredibly advanced and detailed understanding of the movement of the stars and our place in the cosmos, and the the placement and orientation of these sites are almost always aligned to important astrological alignments, like the equinoxes. In fact, the pyramids themselves are perfectly aligned with the cardinal directions with a precision that humans wouldn’t achieve again until the 18th century. So it’s a little weird that they would be so precise in one respect, but so imprecise in another.
Which is why it’s been suggested that perhaps the pyramids date back to a time when the pyramids would have been aligned with Orion’s Belt. The only problem is that the last time that happened was 12,000 to 14,000 years ago.
Now granted, it’s unlikely that the pyramids as they now stand were built that long ago because they would be much more heavily eroded. However, they could potentially be built on older sites that originated from that time period — or they could be memorializing that time period for reasons we don’t yet understand. Either way, it’s interesting.
And speaking of erosion, it was exactly that which caused Robert Schoch to call the age of the Sphinx into question.
Schoch’s work is based on the startling realization that the considerable weathering shown on the oldest parts of the Sphinx show evidence of significant water erosion. However, you’d have to go back in time thousands of years before the Sphinx was allegedly built to find a time when there was abundant rainfall in the region.
Schoch says that he reached his conclusions “through a variety of independent means, such as correlating the nature of the weathering with the climatic history of the area, calculating the amount of rock eroded away on the surface and estimating how long this may have taken, and calibrating the depth of subsurface weathering around and below the Sphinx.”
Some archaeologists and Egyptologists will concede that there is water weathering on the Sphinx, however they argue that heavy rains must have continued into the third century B.C. to account for this. Schoch counters this argument by pointing out that there are mud-brick tombs called mastabas built on the Saqqara Plateau only about a dozen kilometers south of Giza that are definitively and indisputably dated to 2800 B.C. — or 300 years before the Sphinx was allegedly carved. If there had been torrential rain capable of creating the deep weathering on the Sphinx in the area up through that time period and beyond those bricks could not possibly have survived.
There’s also the question of whether or not the head of the Sphinx was recarved, something that mainstream archeologists vehemently deny. But — I gotta tell you guys — the first time I heard that theory my first thought was, “Oh, so that’s why the Sphinx looks like that!” The proportions of the Sphinx, with its small head relative to its body always struck me as a bit off. However, as soon as I visualized it as a recarving of an original, larger head the whole thing just made sense in a way it didn’t before. That’s certainly not definitive proof of anything, but — I mean — just look at it.
Mainstream Egyptologists, however, contend that the head of the Sphinx is original and carved in the image of the pharaoh Khafre — the alleged builder of the Second Pyramid and the maybe-son or maybe-brother of Khufu. They argue that the bizarre proportions of the Sphinx are due to the fact that it was carved directly out of the limestone bedrock, with the body being carved first and then the head, and that they simply misjudged and ran out of room.
And here we see this paradox that conventional archeology demands that we accept without question, even as it emerges again and again — which is that we are to believe that the Egyptian people were both advanced enough to build the pyramids — an architectural feat that would be a major challenge to us, even today — and aligned them to the cardinal directions with a precision that humans wouldn’t be able to achieve again for another 4000 years. And yet, they are somehow also the primitive bumblers who ran out of room to carve the Sphinx.
You simply can’t have it both ways.
So if the head of the Sphinx was recarved, what did it look like before?
The most popular theory is the most obvious, which is that it used to have the head of a lion to match its body, and that perhaps this may have been a representation of the goddess Mehit in the form of a lioness. And here we once again run into the question of astrological alignment, because if the Sphinx was originally a lion, then might it have been carved during the Age of Leo?
It’s impossible to know, but it’s an intriguing theory. However, the fact that during the Age of Leo the Sphinx would have been facing the constellation of Leo on the vernal equinox makes this possibility even more compelling. The last Age of Leo lasted from 10,500 B.C. to 8000 B.C., which also aligns with Schoch’s proposed age of the Sphinx at 12,000 years old. Once again, it’s not proof, but it’s an interesting possibility.
I went looking for arguments against Schoch’s dating of the Sphinx, because I truly wanted to understand why the academic community is so opposed to this idea. And I gotta tell you, I couldn’t find much beyond what’s been presented here so far.
There is one argument that the Sphinx is a lightly shaped yardang, or a rock outcropping shaped by wind-based erosion. Basically, the idea is that the Sphinx used to be a rock outcropping that looked kind of like a Sphinx and then they just carved it a little to make the resemblance more exact. This is a possibility, but given the way that the Sphinx is carved down into the bedrock, it feels unlikely that this was the case.
Other than that, the only real argument against Shoch’s aging of the Sphinx was something that, when he first presented it in 1991 was a very fair argument — which was, if there was a civilization advanced enough to have created the Sphinx thousands of years before it was thought to have been built, then where was the other evidence of this civilization? Shouldn’t there be something?
But just 4 years later, in 1995, excavations began at Gobekli Tepe. Here was the proof that humans were capable of massive and complex feats of engineering at the end of the last Ice Age.
So why, exactly, are mainstream Egyptologists so adamantly opposed to even considering the possibility that the Sphinx may be older than previously thought?
In February of 1992, the American Association for the Advancement of Science hosted a heated debate on the subject between Schoch and Dr. Mark Lehner of the University of Chicago. During this debate Lehner said, “You don’t overthrow Egyptian history based on one phenomenon like a weathering profile. That is how pseudoscience is done, not real science.”
And though it represents the consensus opinion of mainstream Egyptology, this statement is both telling and nonsensical. Egyptian history, like all history, is a story. It’s a story compiled not of all that was, but of what little still remains, interpreted imperfectly by the dominant culture of the time period, and passed down and reinterpreted through the millenia. It’s a messy game of telephone. History isn’t a science. It’s an echo. It’s a shadow play.
So yes, when you find solid, observable data like, say, a weathering profile, and it doesn’t match up with the story that we’ve told ourselves about what happened in the past we absolutely should be willing to at least consider the possibility that we need to throw that story out and start over. To say otherwise is to let the conclusions dictate how we interpret the data — and that is the very soul of pseudoscience.
And it is this exact type of pseudoscientific, nonsensical argument that is used to assail the reputations and ruin the careers of scientists who dare to question the established narrative — and it happens all the time. Once you learn to look for it, you’ll see it everywhere.
So let’s pour one out for the science homies — wherever and whenever they may be — who have put their careers and reputations on the line in order to follow the data to an unpopular and inconvenient conclusion.
Rewriting The History Of Human Civilization
Despite the vehement protestations of the academic community, I find it very hard to plausibly deny that between just these two archeological sites, we have evidence that a rewriting of history may be exactly what’s in order.
But are just these two archeological sites enough to make that claim?
I’d argue that we only actually need one — Gobekli Tepe. The fact that it was carefully and meticulously buried 10,000 years ago means this site has been preserved in a way that we rarely see in megalithic sites — even those that are only a fraction of its age — giving us a literally unparalleled glimpse into humanity’s distant past.
And what we’ve found looks absolutely nothing like what we would have expected and defies virtually every assumption we had about who these people were, what their lives were like, and the engineering feats of which they were capable. It’s been almost 30 years since Gobekli Tepe was discovered. It’s time to admit that when it comes to the emergence of human civilization, we had it all wrong.
On some level, mainstream archeology must know this. They don’t dispute these dates, only the conclusions. But how can anyone deny that Gobekli Tepe nearly doubles the amount of time that there has been something like high civilization on this planet, however erratic and flickering that light may have been
I think that, beyond the typical academic bias against paradigm-breaking ideas, there are a few other reasons for this resistance.
The first is that we still don’t know what Gobekli Tepe was exactly. Most scholars seem to believe that it was probably a temple of some kind, used for religious rites and rituals — but we really don’t know. And the completely anomalous nature of this site, seemingly standing alone in history without context, makes it even more difficult to make sense of.
Who were these people? And why did they build this place?
Mainstream archeology has chosen to simply set Gobekli Tepe down into the existing version of the story of what our ancestors were up to 12,000 years ago and will tell you that it was built by hunter-gatherers.
And to that, I simply say — how?
Could Hunter-Gatherers Have Built Gobekli Tepe?
First of all, the very nature of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle is that a vast majority of your time and energy is spent obtaining food. It’s hard to understand how a massive, collaborative megalithic construction effort could be undertaken by people living that way.
For example, the massive megaliths at Gobekli Tepe are up to 5.5 meters (or 18 feet) tall and weigh up to 50 tons. It would take approximately a thousand men to move just one of these monsters, and though there are debates about how this was actually done, it was, undoubtedly, extremely slow, extremely difficult work. And there were 250 of these megaliths that needed to be quarried, moved to the location, and then raised.
So if you’re going to get done with this project basically ever — you’re going to need thousands of strong adults, who otherwise would have been hunting, to spend a lot of time very slowly hauling big rocks around. And meanwhile, there must be an equally massive effort to gather enough food to support this large assemblage of people — dragging rocks is hungry work. And, conceivably, this could deplete natural resources in the surrounding area over a long enough time period, forcing them to go further and further afield to find food. None of this is ideal.
Now granted, there is the argument to be made that this is actually exactly what happened and that, instead of the rise of agriculture creating the conditions necessary for the building of megaliths as we’d previously assumed, that, in fact, the building of megaliths lead to the conditions that necessitated the development of agriculture. And I will admit that this is definitely a possibility.
However, I’d argue that it’s not just time, manpower, and resources that would have been potential barriers to hunter-gathers becoming megalithic builders — but something deeper.
Many of the pillars and megaliths at Gobekli Tepe are ornately carved with decorative signs and symbols. Some of them even have highly detailed relief sculptures of animals. So basically animals are carved to look like they are sitting on the pillas, but they are made of the same solid piece of rock. The difficulty of that alone is hard to overstate.
Gobekli Tepe doesn’t just represent an engineering and architectural marvel, but an artistic one, as well. It’s carvings and sculptures are as expressive as they are detailed. Are we to believe that our hunter-gatherer ancestors emerged from the last Ice Age and that one of the very first things that they built was this sophisticated, this complex, and this beautiful? And this happened just out of nowhere, with no previous knowledge or civilization to draw from?
Once again, I ask — how?
Could We Detect An Ancient, Advanced Civilization?
Mainstream archeologists don’t have an answer to that question. Though, on the other hand, there admittedly isn’t a good answer to their prevailing question which is — if the builders of Gobekli Tepe weren’t just hunter-gatherers and if a more advanced civilization did exist at the end of the last Ice Age, where is the other evidence?
And that’s more than fair.
Yes, we can argue the unique situation created by Gobekli Tepe being intentionally buried 10,000 years ago means that it is almost certainly much better preserved than any potential archeological sites that may have been around at the same time, but without any other analogous sites to point to it’s all just speculation.
But is there evidence that it would even be possible for an ancient civilization to just be entirely erased like that?
It turns out that there is. If anything, I’d argue that we tend to grossly underestimate how easily evidence can be lost to the sands of time.
There are many missing chapters of human history — places where the archeological record goes quiet, leaving us to wonder about what transpired. One of the biggest of these gaps occurred before humanity existed, when the ancient hominids from which we are descended still roamed the Earth, between 5 million and 9 million years ago.
That’s 4 million years of missing time, the evidence of whatever hominids were doing at the time, how they lived, and how they evolved are essentially erased from the record. Nothing remains.
This is likely because this was a period of Ice Ages. The intermittent cycles of glaciation would have destroyed many potential archaeological sites. And because the sea levels would have been much lower with so much water trapped in ice around the poles, what little record may have remained is likely underwater now.
The paradox of geological time is that 4 million years can be both a very long time and a drop in the bucket. That 4 million years was enough for one branch of the ape family tree to evolve into bipedal, small brained hominids — and yet it’s also a short enough period oof time that it can be easily lost. It can slip through the cracks and be gone forever.
So if we’re talking about thousands of years — tens of thousands of years at most — it’s not unthinkable that an advanced civilization could easily rise and fall, leaving little to no evidence behind — especially if they occurred during or immediately before a tumultuous geoclimatic time.
Like say, maybe the event that killed off most species of mammals at the beginning of the Younger Dryas.
And if that were the case, what might still remain of these ancient people. The answer is, probably not much, and what was there would be hard to find — and harder to conclusively identify. With a little bit of luck, some megalithic structures might still remain, though what state they might be in, we can’t be sure.
And there would be stories — tales of a cataclysm deep in our past and of an advanced people whose very existence was swept away by this calamity.
What Happened 12,000 Years Ago?
And then there’s the question that we’ve been dancing around throughout this whole episode.
You’ve probably noticed that there is this date that keeps popping up — 12,000 years ago, or 10,000 B.C. right at this exact moment in time, give or take a few hundred years, we have three major turning points for the human species — the end of the last Ice Age, the beginning of the agricultural revolution, and the first conclusively dated megalithic structures were built at Gobekli Tepe.
So what the heck happened 12,000 years ago?
I submit that there are two possibilities that best fit the evidence. (The first is that)
Human Civilization is much older than we thought.
I find it virtually impossible to believe that a group of hunter-gatherers would have or could have built Gobekli-Tepe without any kind of previous context or reference point. It truly stretched the limits of credulity.
However, the implications of that are startling enough that we may be hesitant to admit it. Because if Gobekli Tepe is, in fact, an artifact of a more advanced civilization with an understanding of engineering, astronomy, art, and perhaps even written language — that I would argue the evidence at the site strongly suggests — then what we have is this fully formed, complex civilization popping up out of nowhere at the end of the last Ice Age nearly 7,000 years before it was supposed to have existed.
But also, we intuitively know that doesn’t really make sense. Civilizations, however they emerge, don’t just come out of nowhere. It’s a process and a progression, often with fits, setbacks, and false starts that takes literally thousands of years.
The last Ice Age, also referred to as the Younger Dryas, only lasted about 1,200 years — but, as we discussed, this was a rough 1,200 years for anything living in the Northern Hemisphere, with the vast majority of mammals over 44 kgs going extinct within a very short period of time. Whatever caused this massive die off, humans would not have been immune to it, and we almost certainly lost a large percentage of the human population, as well.
So what this implies, is that there could have been some form of advanced civilization that existed on this planet before the last Ice Age. On top of whatever brutal conditions lead to the die-off of so many large mammals, rising sea levels would have likely claimed most settlements on the water, which is where early humans tended to build. Perhaps the species sustained heavy damages, their achievements and cities all but erased by the heavy glaciation and the rising sea.
But perhaps those that survived carried this knowledge. Perhaps there were strongholds where life went on, maybe not just like normal, but with at least enough stability to preserve some of the culture of those who came before. And maybe, at the end of the last Ice Age, they built Gobekli Tepe.
And might that explain why after 2000 years of continuous use, they carefully buried it, never to return again? Whatever their reason for leaving, perhaps they still had a memory of the cataclysm and an awareness that even the mightiest of human achievements can be erased from the face of the planet if they are not carefully preserved?
We don’t know. We may never know. But based on the evidence, I reject the idea that these are stupid questions.
But there is another possibility that is perhaps even more repugnant to mainstream archeologists, which is the idea that:
Humans may have been assisted by an advanced intelligence.
The reality is that, whatever the origin of the UFO phenomenon, based on the paradigm-shattering technology that these objects display, it is almost certainly an expression of a highly advanced intelligence — whether that be extraterrestrial, ultraterrestrial, interdimensional, temporal, artificial or some other possibility that we haven’t even considered yet.
And if the phenomenon is engaging with human beings now, there is no reason to assume that they wouldn’t have in the past, as well. In fact, as we discussed in the last episode, most of these possibilities would almost necessarily mean that they had. And stories of these interactions appear in our art, historical records, and religious texts dating back to the earliest examples that we have, making it impossible to deny the possibility that this is something that humans have been experiencing for thousands of years.
So could it be that the reason that the builders of Gobekli Tepe seem to emerge from the end of the last Ice Age, seemingly out of nowhere, already equipped with the complex set of knowledge and skills necessary to undertake this kind of megalithic building project is because they had a hand? Could they have been gifted this knowledge from a more advanced intelligence?
And if so, what evidence might there be of this profound interaction?
And so that’s where we’ll pick up next time, by looking deep into humanity’s past to see what evidence exists that might shed some light on these ancient mysteries. And finally, we’ll explore the possibility of a major cataclysm during the Younger Dryas and the startling implications it could have not just for our past, but for our future.
I’ll see you then.
- Forgotten Civilization: New Discoveries On The Solar-Induced Ice Age [Revised & Expanded Edition] | Robert M Schoch, PhD w. Catherine Ulissey
- The Hidden History Of The Human Race [The Condensed Edition Of Forbidden Archeology] | Michael A. Cremo & Richard L. Thompson
- The Waterside Ape: An Alternative Account Of Human Evolution | Peter Rhys-Evans
- V. Gordon Childe | Wikipedia
- We’re Older Than We Thought: New Find Pushes Human Origin Back 100,000 Years | NBC News
- Disappearance of Ice Age Megafauna and the Younger Dryas Impact | Capeia
- Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? | Smithsonian Magazine
- Scholars Dispute Claim That Sphinx Is Much Older | The New York Times
- Was There Civilization On Earth Before Humans? | The Atlantic